News Stories

This news story was run nationally in November 2010. In late December, Heather was adopted-out to a caring home after being at the Equine Rescue & Adoption Foundation (ERAF) for over a year. Through the efforts of the trainers, staff and volunteers at ERAF, she was helped to overcome physical and emotional issues. Kirsten is the head trainer at ERAF and developed the program that helps rehabilitate, re-train and re-start rescue horses, showing that they can overcome challenges and return to being ridden.

Filly with Secretariat bloodline winds up in horse rescue

Posted: Nov 09, 2010 3:39 PM EST
Updated: Nov 09, 2010 3:49 PM EST

PALM CITY, FL (NBC) – ‘Heather’ is a beautiful mare who came to the Equine Rescue and Adoption Foundation in Palm City, FL about a year ago.

She was underweight and suffering from a fungal infection on her belly.”It was all through here and you can see she’s still quite sensitive of it,” says Kirsten Nelsen as Heather winces when she’s touched. Volunteers found her to be a handful.

Her ailment meant she wasn’t nearly as cooperative as the other abandoned and neglected horses around the stables. “She got more and more defensive and would be a little tough to handle,” said Nelsen. One groomer found something unique about Heather and decided to do a little research. What she discovered surprised everyone. “We said ‘Wow’ because she’s a bit of a princess,” said Nelsen.

First, Heather wasn’t her real name, it was Empire Lady. Plus, she was no ordinary lady; this princess was a direct descendent of racing royalty. Her great-great grandsire was Secretariat, the Triple Crown winner from 1973 whose life now plays out on movie screens across the country.

“No wonder she feels so misunderstood. Here she is at a rescue with this regal bloodline,” Nelsen said.

So how did they trace Heather’s lineage? From a tattoo inside her upper lip. The code A03802 was entered into a horse racing jockey registry database and the connection was made. Heather actually never raced competitively, but after a few more months of work at the foundation, they hope to get her back in the saddle.

“She’s got a lot of good years left in her. She’s starting to put muscle back on. We’ve overcome some major health obstacles. She just needs to start getting ridden again and she’ll be a really nice horse for someone,” said Nelsen.

Quote Of The Day

"If the horse does not enjoy his work, his rider will have no joy."
~H.H. Isenbart